hat at Hermaness

hat1

I’ve had a lot of queries about Peerie Flooers over the past few days, so here are a couple more photos of the particular hat in question. After being approached by the wardrobe folk involved with Shetland, I knitted up this new sample especially for the production. I remember knitting it over the May bank holiday, while Tom was running the Jura Fell Race, and then posting it off the following week.

hat2

Mel also knitted up an o w l sweater sample, which sadly wasn’t used in the production in the end. But you may have spotted other Shetland knitwear on screen: Hazel Tindall’s beautiful Eid Top was unmistakable, even at a distance, and I was very excited to spot a Sheep Heid in the Up Helly Aa crowd. During filming in Shetland, my friend Sarah worked in wardrobe, and they did a great job.

hat3

These photographs were taken out at Hermaness last September, and because I know someone is bound to ask about my yellow raincoat, it is from Seasalt, I highly recommend it, and you can find it here.

hat4

Thanks for all your well-wishes. I am still not at my best healthwise, unfortunately, but with careful pacing hope to be back up to speed very soon. xx

snawheid

Here is the result of my pompom mania — SNAWHEID!

Snawheid is a seasonal, snowflake-adorned beanie, feauturing a gigantic snowball pompom. It being Wovember and everything, I thought it would be fun to present to you three rather different Snawheids, each made in a different British breed-specific yarn. All are, of course, 100% wool (as is, incidentally, the rest of my outfit, with the exclusion of my boots).

Snawheid #1 is knitted in Shetland Organic 2 ply. As its name would suggest, this yarn comes from certified organic Shetland sheep, and is processed by organic mills. It knits to a standard 4 ply tension, and, as you would imagine, has a lovely woolly, typically Shetland hand. In the ball it has a matt, almost chalky feel to it and it is plied and spun slightly looser than other natural Shetlands I’ve knit with. When blocked, it puffs right up, producing a lovely halo. I gave it a good long soak and the yarn bloomed and relaxed tremendously. Its a really special, totally traditional Shetland yarn, and makes a lovely soft, even fabric. It has lent Snawheid #1 a quintessentially cosy, Wintery feel.

For a rather different look, I present to you Snawheid #2, which has been knitted by Jen in Excelana 4 ply.

I decided not to stick the pompom on Jen’s Snawheid just yet, so that I could show you my crown design — which is shaped to resemble a gigantic snowflake. If one were in any way averse to pompoms, or preferred a sleeker look, the crown ensures that your heid will remain adequately snaw-y, however you decide to knit this hat.

Excelana is a collaboration between Susan Crawford and John Arbon: the former has unparallelled knowledge of vintage yarns, and the latter is the UK’s independent spinning meister. The result is this delicious blend of 70% Exmoor Blueface / 30% Bluefaced Leicester which has an incredibly smooth, soft hand, a lovely sheen, and a good bit of bounce. Being worsted spun, it also has superb stitch definition, making it ideal for showing off some festive colourwork snowflakes.

Without the enormous pompom, and knitted in the monochrome shades of Persian Grey and Alabaster, I think Jen’s hat has a lovely muted, classic feel.

And finally, here is Snawheid #3.

After I finished Snawheid #1, and got my hands on Snawheid #2, I had a sudden desire to make another one using Jamieson and Smith Jumper Weight. Snawheid #3 is knitted in shade FC 34 — the coolest of cool winter blues — and 1A, a natural Shetland white.

I am not quite sure why, but this is my favourite of the three.

Perhaps I am just in a blue-hat mood, or something.

Or perhaps its that the addition of colour makes this hat feel particularly jolly and festive.

Or perhaps it is just that knitting with Jamieson and Smith jumper weight feels like spending time with an old friend.

In any case it is fair to say that I have gone a wee bit Snawheid crazy. These gigantic, happy pompoms certainly chime with my mood right now; I am really pleased with the design and I absolutely love every one of these three hats. And let me tell you that you have got off lightly with the name, as the temptation to call it Bawheid (one of Tom’s dad’s favourite insults) was extremely strong.

Well, now there’s just a bit of pattern-tweaking and checking to do and, all being well, the SNAWHEID pattern will be released on Ravelry tomorrow (19th).

The Sixareen Kep

Hello from Shetland, everybody! Wool Week is in full swing, and it has got off to a great start.
I thought you’d like to see the pattern we produced yesterday at the Shetland Museum — named and photographed by the workshop participants, and modeled here by the lovely Tania — the Sixareen Kep.

In the workshop I talked a bit about the way I tend to build up ideas and inspiration for a project, and I thought I’d share with you a little of the background to the design of this kep (cap). This was my starting point:


Stanley Cursiter, The Fair Isle Jumper (1923) Edinburgh City Arts Centre.

Some of you may remember this amazing portrait from the front cover of A Shetland Knitter’s Notebook, and I’ve also mentioned my fascination with it before here. What the sitter is wearing on her head is is a sort of fancy seafarer’s kep. I just love this hat – perhaps apart from the pompoms – and thought it would be an ideal use of Jamieson and Smith’s Shetland Heritage yarn, of which I conveniently had six balls – one in each shade.


(mmmm . . .tasty Shetland Heritage . . . )

The shape of Cursiter’s sitter’s kep also reminded me strongly of the Phrygian or Liberty cap — a symbol of freedom that’s perhaps most most familiarly associated with the French Revolution.


I thought I would like to make the main body of my kep red, rather than white, recalling the Phrygian cap.

Then I started thinking about the different kinds of head-covering worn by fishermen around the coasts of Britain.

These noble chaps were photographed by Hill and Adamson in 1847, just down the road from where I live, in Newhaven. The one on the left is wearing what I think of as a kep — the kind of tall ‘wursit’ hat that would have been familiarly worn by Scottish and English fishermen throughout the Nineteenth Century. While the Newhaven fisherman’s head-covering is evidently fashioned in a single colour, in Shetland, such hats would have been knitted in several bright shades:

In the words of Samuel Hibert, in his Description of the Shetland Islands (1822):

“The boat dress of the fishermen is in many respects striking. A worsted covering for the head, similar in form to the common English or Scotch nightcap, is dyed with so many colours that its bold tints are recognized at a considerable distance, like the stripes of a signal flag.”

The collections of the Shetland Museum abound with beautiful examples of such hats. These keps are knitted at typically tight gauges, and feature internal linings which would have made them incredibly cosy and windproof. With a little further poking around the Shetland Museum online archives, I found this description of some wonderfully elaborate examples, that were knitted up to an old design in the 1950s:

“Haaf hats were the type of hats worn by the crew of a sixareen at the haaf (deep sea) fishing, and were typically patterned with small geometric designs . . .The skipper of the boat wore a bright red cap, while the rest of the crew wore darker ones. This differentiated him from the rest of the crew.”

So with these resonances in mind — the hat in the Cursiter portrait; the red Phyrigian cap; the brightly patterned keps described in nineteenth-century accounts of Shetland; and the sixareen skipper’s red “haaf” hat — I knitted this:

My kep begins with a knitted-in lining, and the colourwork brim is knitted on 2.75mm needles. After joining the lining to the top of the brim, I went up a couple of needle sizes, knitting the main body of the kep at a looser gauge to make it drapey (as well as having great stitch definition for colourwork, because of the way it is spun, the Heritage yarn also drapes well). After knitting and shaping the body of the kep, I finished it off with a braid, made from 3 different coloured i-cords, which I plaited and joined together. Here’s the end result:

The workshop participants had a great discussion about what to name the hat — associations were made with Burra’s famous Papil Cross, the distinctive red geology of Ronas Hill as well as different aspects of Shetland seafaring. A vote was taken, and the name that won out was the Sixareen Kep.

So, the pattern for the Sixareen Kep is now available from Ravelry!

Many thanks to all who participated in the workshop: Victoria Wickham, Shelly Kocan, Tania Ashton Jones, Susan Freeman, Evelyn Mackenzie, Emily Poleson, Mandy Moore, Mary Pirie, Aileen Ryder, Outi Kater, Joyce James, Tori Seirestad, Charlotte Monckton, Ann Leibert, Mary Henderson, Monique Boonstra, Joyce Ward, Lesley Smith, Melanie Ireland and Jen Arnall Culliford.

colourwork and crown decreases

I’ve been receiving several queries recently about how to read colourwork charts when shaping the crown of a hat, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it. A number of knitters seem to be making peerie flooers as their first colourwork project: so if this is you, and you find yourself bewildered by ‘chart C’ – worry not! I explain everything at the end of this post.

There are many different methods of shaping a hat crown, but in colourwork, the decreases are often made around a central stitch, to create that pleasing spokes-of-a-wheel effect characteristic of traditional Fairisle knitting. One way of doing this is to pair familiar right- and left-slanting decreases (k2tog and ssk) around a column of knitted stitches. Kate Gagnon Osborne’s popular Selbu Modern has a crown shaped in this manner, and its decreases are charted in a similar way to this:

This chart represents one repeat, or ‘wedge’, of the hat crown. The knitter works across the chart from right to left, and when s/he encounters a pink square, works a right slanting decrease, knits the next stitch (from the column at the centre of the chart), and then works a left slanting decrease. The knitter continues on to the end of the repeat (left side of chart), and begins again. Each time a decrease is worked, a square disappears from the chart. The pink squares reveal where two stitches turn into one, and the column of blank squares illustrates how the centre of the decreases lines up to create one spoke of the crown wheel. Effectively, five stitches are involved in making this decrease: two stitches are worked together on the right; two on the left, and one stitch is knitted from the centre column.

Another common method of shaping a crown involves three stitches rather than five, and is known as a centred double decrease (CDD). This decrease gives each spoke of the wheel a decorative raised or mitred effect. There are a few different kinds of centred double decrease, but for clarity I’ll just talk about my favourite one here. It is worked as follows:
slip 2 stitches together as if to knit; knit 1, pass 2 slipped stitches over.
Some designers, such as Alice Starmore, chart centred double decreases in a similar manner to this:

Here, the knitter begins the round at the centre of the chart, works across from right to left, and when s/he encounters a pair of pink squares, slips two stitches, knits the green square to the left, and passes the two slipped stitches over. This next crown chart is exactly the same as the previous one, except that the knitter begins at the right hand edge, and the slipped stitches are illustrated as pairs in the centre, rather than off to one side.

I have used this particular method of charting centred double decreases on my Fugue and Caller Herrin’ hats. These are busy designs where the visual continuity of each round on the chart is important to the knitter. Because of this, the k1 part of each decrease is represented – as it is in reality – as the stitch directly to the left of the two slipped stitches. For other designs, however, it is useful for the knitter to be able to visualise each wedge and spoke of the wheel separately, and in such cases the k1 part of each centred double decrease is charted as a separate column of stitches. Here is the same crown chart again, but this time with the spoke – the k1 part of the decrease – represented in the column of stitches to the right.

Here, the knitter begins the round at the centre of the chart, works across from right to left, and when s/he encounters a pink stitch (left side of the chart), slips it, together with the next pink stitch (right side of chart), knits one green stitch from the column, and then passes the two slipped stitches over. This way of charting has the distinct advantage of allowing the knitter to see, relatively easily, what each wedge and spoke of the crown will look like. However, an element of confusion is introduced by the fact that the pink and green stitches at the right hand side of the chart are, in effect, worked out of turn. Also, some knitters might find something slightly anomalous in the way the decreases appear on this and the previous couple of charts, because the stitches that don’t exist anymore are actually still there (represented by the pink squares).* Additionally, representing the slipped/ decreased stitches with a different colour or symbol can sometimes make a chart quite difficult to read – particularly in a design where several colours are in use.

My favourite method of charting a colourwork crown gets around all of these problems.
Here it is.

Here the knitter begins in the centre of the chart (the stitch to the left of the yellow ‘start of round’ line) and works across from right to left. When they encounter the edges of the chart on a decrease round, they slip two stitches, k1 stitch from the right hand column, pass the two slipped stitches over, and continue around. The stitches that are slipped and decreased simply disappear from the chart (as illustrated here by the arrows on round 16). This allows the wedge of the crown to appear as it actually looks, enables the knitter to see clearly what colour the k1 part of the decrease is worked in, and lends the whole chart greater visual clarity.

Caboom

If you are a novice knitter making peerie flooers and I have merely messed with your mind in all the foregoing, just use the striped chart above as a guide (it has exactly the same stitch count as chart C in the pattern), and here is what to do:

Begin working from the chart on round 1, at stitch 1, (to the left of the start of round line)
Continue working, repeating the chart around, until round 4.
On round 4, *k 10 sts in pattern, slip 2 stitches, k1 stitch from the right hand column, pass 2 slipped stitches over, k11 sts in pattern.* repeat around
On round 6, you decrease again, by *knitting 9 sts in pattern, slipping 2 stitches, knitting 1 stitch from the column, passing the 2 slipped stitches over, knitting 10 stitches in pattern* and repeating around.
And so on – decreasing on every even round – until you reach the top of the chart, and return to the pattern instructions.

Here endeth the lesson.

Also, those generally interested in colourwork hats may be interested to know that you can now buy 3 of my patterns together as part of a collection I’ve called The Hats of Midlothian. (I was foolishly pleased with myself when I came up with this title, but when I, in a state of great excitement, told Tom, he remained completely nonplussed. Hey ho).

*It would be all too easy to boggle one’s brain with the question of when a slipped stitch ceases to be a stitch. I’ll leave the ontological knitting to Heather.

frenzy

Happily, I always love to knit, but it has been a while since I have found myself in a total knitting frenzy. This particular frenzy struck on Friday, took over my brain and hands, and meant that I had to knit all weekend until I was done. To explain: on Friday morning, I popped into John Lewis for some snap fasteners for my cardigan. I picked those up, had a nice chat with Lindsay, and a good squoosh of the new Rowan yarns. I was particularly pleased when I saw the new ‘fine tweed’ range – one of my all-time favourite Rowan yarns is the now long-discontinued Yorkshire tweed and this new ‘fine tweed’ is very reminiscent of it. The colourways are named after Yorkshire and Lancashire villages, and the yarn is also spun in Yorkshire.


Fine tweed is a lovely nubbly, woolly single. It is very fine – the weight seems a little more sock yarn than 4ply – and the twist is punctuated with little tweedy flecks. There are 24 colours, and they are all amazing.

AMAZING

I went home, and spent the afternoon walking in the rain. I couldn’t stop thinking about those colours. Some were soft and faded, like old crewel wools, others were deep and rich and Autumnal. And tweedy. So tweedy. The frenzy slowly took hold – I just had to knit fine tweed! I needed to make colourwork! NOW! I had many other projects on the go, but to hell with them! To hell with everything! My fingers were itching for fine tweed. By Saturday morning, I was sorted. Oh, you tasty little yarn cakes. You are MINE, all mine.

I had lots of fun swatching

Did I mention how much I FOOKIN LOVE THOSE COLOURS?

Though the frenzy had by now seriously taken hold, with uncharacteristic restraint, I decided to draft up a whole pattern beforehand rather than, as per my usual practice, having a few design thoughts and knitting them up on the hoof. I spent the day immersed in Illustrator and came up with some hat charts from a couple of ideas I’ve been playing around with for a while.

These wee flowers have been knocking around my files for over a year now – I had intended them for something I’d just not got round to knitting. I find them very pleasing, but I was perhaps even more pleased with my crown chart. While the body of the hat would be covered with little flowers, the crown centre would resemble a larger flower. Big flowers! Little flowers! FLOWERS ALL ROUND!

Then I sat down and I knit like a loon.

By today – Monday morning – I had a fun new hat!

The frenzy has now evaporated, but it has been replaced by a sensation of self-satisfaction, which to others may manifest as the annoying smugness of a person who feels that she has got something RIGHT. I am really very pleased with this hat.

I think I am so happy with it because all of its design elements made total sense to me from start to finish. The yarn was utterly compelling and I felt I knew before I began how the colours I’d selected should work together. The design idea is simple, but this is really often best. It was fun to knit and to design (I enjoy playing around with charts in Illustrator). Though I think the crown chart placement still needs a stitch or two of tweaking, I love its kaleidoscopic effect and the way its decreases line up like a little braid.

This hat began in the FRENZY. It was made for the pure, knitterly pleasure of making it, and the fact that it turned out well is an unintended bonus. I didn’t intend to make a fine-tweed floral hat, much less to write a hat pattern, but this is what appears to have happened. I have lots of other things in the pipeline (including Betty Mouat, and the next issue of Textisles which will be out very shortly) but I am glad I gave into the frenzy and knit my arse off this weekend. Anyway, if anyone fancies covering their head with knitted flowers as the weather starts to turn, you should be able to do so in just a few days.

congrats

dollheid5

It’s Dollheid prize time! Congratulations to ten randomly-selected commenters: Celia, Luisa, Arndis, Lillicroche, Yulian, Maaike, Lizzi, Pat (J) and two Marias (one German, one Canadian) to whom I’ve just emailed a copy of the pattern. And thanks for all your comments, everyone, which I enjoyed reading: I was thrilled to discover that dollheid translates into Dutch as ‘frolicky madness’, and particularly liked Kristi’s tale of her psychedelic dream knitting — a phenomenon strangely familiar to those of us who Dream in Wool.

flatheid

For those of you who are interested, here’s a little more about the design. The shaping is that of a traditional tam, but with a greater number of crown-points than is usual (eighteen dolls = eighteen points of decrease). I began with stitches to fit an average head circumference of 21 inches (those with very wee heads might knit the edging on a 2.5mm rather than a 3mm needle). The brim edging is worked in corrugated rib, and then stitches are increased rapidly to the finished diameter. Despite the relatively long areas of colourwork, I didn’t weave my strands at all — and found that the yarn stabilised quickly at the back of the work (warning: this will only work with a very even tension and a pure-wool yarn!). My finished dollheid is ten inches wide and eight inches deep – a roomy fit that would enable you to wear this tam in a slouchy fashion on the back of your head, as well as pulled down over your ear-tops (as I like it). Knitting towards the top of the crown, paired decreases are worked in the spaces between the dolls, and then in corresponding sets up through the crown pattern, until three stitches remain, which are finished as an i-cord stalk. Finally, I blocked the tam by pinning it out — rather than stretching it over a plate. This is simply because I find that putting a tam onto a plate over-stretches the ribbing, and I like my ribbing to stay as ribby as possible.

Well, dollheid is now “live” and if you are interested in the pattern, you can find it here or here. But I want to conclude this post with another congratulations — to Tom, who ran the Islay half marathon on Saturday in a speedy personal best.

pb

Look at him go! More about our weekend on Islay shortly.

dollheid – prize draw!

dollheid1

Its amazing what a wee break from the daily commute can do to one’s all-round productivity. I’m happily working on several research projects at the moment, as I always do at this time of year, but I am also finding the spare time and energy to devote to designing. Can I just say how much I am enjoying it? Well, I really am. Here is the first of several forthcoming colourwork designs: Dollheid. Heid (pronounced heed) is a colloquial term for head in these parts, and the dolls are self-explanatory. Here is my heid in its dollheid:

dollheid2

Despite the expression, let me assure you that I love this tam deeply. I knit two other prototypes in different yarn, trying out different shaping methods, before this one was finished. With this incarnation – size, shaping, yarn, colour – I am totally and completely happy. I love the dusky tones of the yarn, and also love the way the yarn behaves. There’s no need for me to tell you how I feel about Shetland, but it really is the best stuff for stranded colourwork, and the Jamiesons relaxes and blooms really beautifully after blocking.

dollheid3

You will see that I have taken many of the design features of the paper dolls sweater — peeries, i-cord cast on, corrugated rib — and have incorporated them into the tam. All these things worked really well. Another thing I am pleased about is the way that the dolls have achieved a sort of geometric integrity quite apart from any representational qualities they may have. (Um, did I really just write that sentence? Lets try again:) What I mean is that one of the reasons they look so pleasing is that, when arranged in a circle around the crown of the tam, they suggest one abstract shape as well as eighteen dolls.

dollheid6

(Norah Gaughan writes about this geometric arrangement gubbins far better than I can). Anyhow, after some enjoyable wrestling with illustrator (one can produce such deluxe charts if one works at it! I’m amazed!) I am happy to report the pattern is just about finished (hurrah!), and I will release it on Monday. But before I do, I wanted to say a small thanks to all of you — for your encouragement and support of my designs — and I thought I’d give away ten copies of the pattern to ten commenters on this post. So, if you are interested in a free copy of the dollheid pattern, just leave a comment here, and I’ll pick the winners at random on Monday morning, August 3rd (my time) before I put the pattern up for sale.

ETA: The pattern is available here or here

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